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Northern Front, City of Falledge, Forward Defense Line

Heavy gunfire echoed throughout the night. The night skies were lit up by glowing tracers floating into the skies and parachute flares. Gout of flames washed over the trench lines as Imperial Dragons swept down low over the SDF positions.

Men and dragons screamed as they fought while guns thundered and roared. A dragon slammed right into a puff of smoke were an anti air shell detonated in mid air, had hundreds of .50 calibre sized ball bearings ripping through its body and turning its crew and passengers into shredded meat.

The lifeless dragon dropped like a rock and impacted the ground with a bone breaking crash just before the bunker where the Rock was stationed. Under the illumination of the flares, he stared at the bleeding eye sockets of the dragon as it rattled out its last breath. The unidentified bits and pieces still secured to the dragon's harness leaked dark red stains that mixed with the dragon's blood pooling in the crater made by the dragon's crash.

The Rock turned his gaze away from the dead reptile and its crew and focused on the moving shadows that were trying to crawl their way forward and kill him. He felt conflicted as to where his loyalties laid as he fired at the crawling shadows.

He was a Lord General of the Imperial Army but defeated against the United Nations. Now he joined up as a Self Defense Force soldier and fighting against his very own countrymen. Yet he knew if he returned to the Empire, he has a high chance he will bear all the blame for the lost.

Even if the Emperor acquitted him of his defeat, the other Nobles jealous of his exploits or had bad blood with him will take the chance to pull him down. On the other hand, he could start afresh here, provided that the UN could survive the Imperial forces. And looking at their current situation, it would appear that the UN was winning against the Empire.

As he pondered about his fate, the land before him lit up as an artillery barrage rained down on the attackers and turned the night briefly into day. Under the sudden flashes of light, he saw the skies filled with numerous shapes of flying dragons.

"Damn," The Rock stared up at the shadowy underbellies of the dragons. "They must be trying to force an aerial crossing!"

As if to answer him, the .50 caliber machine gun nests and 20 mm guns turned anti air batteries fired fiercely at the fleet of dragons in the air. An air raid siren whooped in the distance and the Rock crawled out of his bunker to watch the light show in the air.

Thousands and thousands of tracers darted into the skies in long arcing lines. Flares and a few of the strange magical light beams were shone up into the skies, catching a few of the dragons in the glare.

"Poor bastards," The Rock sighed. "I wonder how many will see the sun tomorrow..."

-----

Flight Lieutenant Legos, squadron leader of Gold Wing peered into the darkness before him. He could barely see the terrain before him even with the help of parachute flares the ground artillery were lobbing into the skies.

He knew that the air space was very crowded with lead, artillery shells and even enemy dragons. His wing of twelve was flying the upgraded Super Cobras and keeping station above the night battle when the panicked calls came in from the ground SDF units about sightings of hundreds and hundreds of dragons.

He looked over the sight of his bubble cockpit and under the brief flashes of explosions, he saw the illuminated silhouette of dragons appearing. The next thing he knew was the friendly lines suddenly erupted into a frenzied mess of tracer fire.

"Shit!" He cursed. "Gold Lead to all! Scatter! Scatter!"

The flight of twelve Super Cobras broke formation and rolled away from the sudden barrage of deadly ground fire. "Gold Lead to SDF ground units! Check fire! Check fire! Goddamnit! Blue on blue!"

The number of tracer fire ceased as word got through to the ground units. Yet the problem with the Imperial dragons in the area of operations remained. Legos and his pilots could barely see anything in the dark while several anti air defences on the ground were shooting discriminately at anything in the air.

"Alright, Gold Group!" Legos finally made a decision. "Low squadron drop to 500 and pop your flares over friendly lines! The rest of the squadrons, wait out for lizards! Own time own target!"

Gold Five, Six, Seven and Eight made up the low squadron and they looped around and dropped their altitude till around five hundred meters above sea level. Gold Five, the squadron leader yelled the command for his squadron of four planes to drop flares as they flew over friendly lines.

The flares, used for signalling and battlefield illumination rapid fired out in a 'V' pattern from the rear of the four Super Cobras. Instantly the skies below the four planes lit up brightly, and several Imperial dragons were exposed, their crew and passengers staring up in surprise at the sudden light.

"Gold Lead to all! Engage!" Legos yelled into the radio. "Watch out for friendly fire!"

The other seven planes of the Gold Wing dipped their wings and charged down towards the exposed dragons which were trying to flee away from the flares and hide in the dark. More bullet tracers floated upwards the exposed dragons at the same time the Super Cobras dived in for the kill.

Legos yelled into the command radio, "SDF ground units cease fire! Farking hell! Cease the goddamn AA fire!"

Thankfully, the anti air fire died down, giving the Super Cobra pilots some comfort. They chased the fleeing dragons with ease, as the dragons were overburdened with troops and supplies. Legos managed to keep his eye on one of the heavy weight dragons that disappeared off the glow of the dying flares.

He kept his crosshair at where he guessed the dragon will be at and squeezed the trigger, firing his twin 20mm gun pods. Bolts of fiery red tracers flicked out into the night and for a brief moment, the silhouette of the dragon could be seen from the shell impacts.

Legos grinned fiercely as he saw a dark shadow fall off the skies and ordered into the radio. "Gold Group! Drop flares and engage at will!"

The pilots of Gold Group obeyed and soon the night turned into a hunting ground for the Super Cobras. It was forever remembered as the worst Imperial aerial defeat in the course of aviation history for barely a third survived.

-----

UN, City of Haven, Fortress Singapore, Captain's Quarters

Blake rubbed his tired eyes as he read the live reports streaming into his computer. An engagement here, a skirmish there or reports of enemy movements were all being displayed on his screen. He scrolled through some of the reports and read in detail on others.

"Richard..." Sherene frowned as she entered Blake's office. "It's so late, why are you still at work?"

Blake looked up and gave a smile to his wife. "The Imperials are attacking all along the North Front. And we don't know if its coincidence or planned."

Sherene stood behind Blake's chair and started kneading his shoulders. "You got subordinates to oversee everything. You shouldn't push yourself so hard. You are the head of the state... If you fall ill... it will not bore well for the Nation."

"Relax, dear," Blake patted Sherene's hand. "I know what I am doing. I am just finishing up on these reports."

"Hmph..." Sherene's frown deepened. "I know its important, but you still need to look after your health!"

"I know, don't worry," Blake smiled. "Go to bed first, I will join you once I finished these."

Sherene sighed and nodded, "Make it quick!"

Blake's smile remained until Sherene left his office. His smile turned to a frown as he returned to the alarming reports of the battles at the front. He tapped his keypad and a tone beeped. After a while, the image of Colonel Frank appeared. "Sir!"

"Did I woke you?" Blake asked as he continued reading the incoming reports.

"No Sir!" Colonel Frank replied. "I am going through some reports and strategy with my team."

"Ok," Blake nodded. "I'm reading this report here about the ability of the SDF stationed at Falledge. Their performance isn't up to any standards..."

Colonel Frank turned off screen and picked up a report before he nodded, "Yes, Sir... Seems like they got the short end of the stick as they are up against a Knight Order."

"I see," Blake replied. "So what are the counter measures?"

"I am pushing up Ninth Battalion as support, just in case those supermans like Knights break the SDF lines," Colonel Frank said. "The Ninth should arrive by the morning to reinforce the line."

"And the eyewitness reports of the Imperials stealing our weapons and gear?" Blake asked. "Is that information verified?"

Colonel Frank reached off screen again to take another report before he replied, "Yes, Sir. We got several confirmed eyewitnesses say that the Imperials had grabbed several old M1 Magelocks of the SDF."

"So it's just a matter of time, they learn how our weapons work," Blake sighed. "I was hoping we could have at least another season or two."

Anyway, can the Falledge SDF hold off the Knights before the First and Second Battalions mop up the remaining First Imperial Army?" Blake asked.

"They should, especially with the support of the Ninth," Frank said. "But, all down the line, the Imperials are launching attacks."

"Is it deliberate?" Blake asked.

"No, Naval Intel has found no indication of such a plan," Frank replied. "But at the same time, I placed all units on full alert in case the Imperials had some grand scheme going on."

"We can't afford to drag this war," Blake said. "Our industry is still in the growing stages and our stockpiled munitions and weapons will not be enough for a prolong war at the rate of munitions and fuel we are burning. And not to mention funds..."

Frank nodded, "Yes, Sir. The boys at Strategic Planning and Command are coming out with plans to ensure we do not fall into that pit, Sir."

"Good," Blake replied. "I don't want to sell more of our tech stuff to the Isles. Nor do I want to ask them for help. I doubt we can afford their services."

"Understood, Sir. We are already making good progress on the right flank," Frank said. "Once the First and Second Battalions clear all the Imperial forces around Falledge, we can start taking the offensive to the Imperials."

"Make it so," Blake said. "I got goblin raiders spotted along the Goblin Seas, which means they are coming for their annual raid along the coast. This shit will drain more resources from the main war at the North."

"And our navy is severely understrength," Frank added. "I understand, Sir."

"Good, by the way, get some sleep, you need it," Blake said before he signed off.

He leaned back on his chair as he stared at the map of the New World mounted on the wall facing him. Once all the Imperial Armies were defeated, Blake was very sure the Emperor will call for a truce and maybe even come to a peace agreement of sorts.

If that was the case, just a couple of years of peace will ensure the United Nations solidify its strength to overwhelm the Empire should the Emperor break the peace. And two years will also give the Navy enough time to build up its fleet and destroy Goblin Island once and for all, making the Goblin Sea free of all pirates and raiders for the future.

But first, they have to defeat the remaining three Imperial Armies at their doorstep first.

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